Schult Trailers Inc. - 1933-1957 - Schult Homes - 1957-present - Elkhart, Indiana

    Known bus and truck body builder from the 1930s-40s.

During WWII they built a number of War Worker trailers, semi-trailer buses pulled by a tractor cab and chassis. Shult and Fruehauf also built similar trailers for Detroit and Chicago-area businesses engaged in war work. Some were converted from existing new car carriers, others were built from scratch.

(pp90-91 - Woods - American Buses)

1938 Continental Clipper built by Walter Wells and Wilbur Schult of Schult Trailers
this one of a kind trailer was so remarkable that its owners included King Farouk of Egypt
who later sold it to a Maharaja in India


Schult also built the trailers for the famed 1947 Gatti-Hallicrafters African Expedition.

“New York -- (INS) -- Famed Explorer Commander Attilio Gatti left Saturday on one of the most elaborate African expeditions of all time. It will be in constant radio contact with the United States, and gather scientific data including, possibly, information on a beast bigger than the largest gorilla.

“The expedition, sponsored by the Hallicrafters Co. of Chicago, makers of electronic equipment, will make a six-month tour of the interior of British East Africa. Its goal is the fabled Mountains of the Moon region in Uganda.

“Gatti has said that one of the expedition’s most important jobs will be to track down and if possible photograph a beast called “Mulahu” by the Mambuti pygmies. These pygmies are the only inhabitants of the jungles surrounding 16,798 foot Ruwenzori mountains.

“The animal is said to be a “fifth anthropoid,” larger than a gorilla, chimpanzee, orangutan or gibbon, and is regarded with awe and terror by the pygmies.

“Gatti is convinced that such an animal exists, from information he has received on previous African explorations.

“No white man, however, has seen it.”


All the radio equipment had been installed in the “Shack on Wheels”, a big Schult house trailer that was in New York awaiting shipment. We were to get our first glimpse of it at the International Harvester showroom in the big city. The “radio shack” trailer was apparently on display there because Harvester furnished all the trucks for the expedition, and Schult had donated three deluxe house trailers, two for the Gattis and one for the combination photo lab and radio shack. Bob and I agreed, Commander Gatti was a grand master of promotion.

We quickly toured our combination “Rolling (photo) Lab” and ham “Shack on Wheels” trailer for the African continent; it was first rate. Gatti had done an excellent job of design, and all the eight trucks and eight trailers were painted colors that would photograph well. I taped on my crude signs telling of the usage of the trailers.

The Gatti’s two luxurious living trailers were also on display. Gatti’s was a combination office and sleeping trailer, Mrs. Gatti’s was a dining and sleeping arrangement.

All three of the large Schult trailers were equipped with a refrigerator. The “Shack’s” fridge was primarily used for making ice cubes to cool photo chemical solutions, while the two Gatti trailers “ice-a box” were to cool the cocktail hour drinks and keep the butter hard.

In return for the vehicles, Gatti taped a number of promotional films for Hallicrafters, one for Schult Trailers, and one for International Harvester.


WILBUR SCHULT Industry Leadership Through Acquisition

by Al Hesselbart -

In the summer of 1933, a young, Elkhart, Indiana, clothing store clerk visited the Chicago World’s Fair and fell in love with the new-fangled trailers he saw there. After his return home, one evening while enjoying an ice cream cone with his parents at a local stand, he was amazed to see a car drive in towing one of these amazing trailers. He brashly asked the owner if he would show him through the unit. Noting that it was a Covered Wagon model made by Arthur Sherman’s company in the northern Detroit suburbs, he determined to get one and try to become a dealer. With the depression still in full swing, capital investors were nearly impossible to come by. He attempted to borrow some start-up money from his father who advised him he was "crazy" and refused to support his "folly". He was eventually able to borrow $300 from "pin money" his more sympathetic mother had put aside and made the trip to Mt. Clemons, Michigan in an attempt to get his first trailer. He bought his original unit for $275 and towed it back to Elkhart behind his own car. He set up his retail operation (one unit in inventory) on the street in front of the clothing store, which his parents owned and operated.

After several weeks, he finally made his first sale and his dream was underway. Unfortunately, the check that he had accepted for the unit bounced, and he now had only $25 of his mother’s loan left and no inventory. With the totally naïve faith of youth, he returned to Mt. Clemons in hopes of acquiring a second unit on consignment. Amazingly, he was able to get a second unit and towed it back home to start again. This time he had better luck, the trailer sold quickly and his business was off and running. Shortly, he also became a dealer for Milo Miller’s Sportsman brand trailers made in Mishawaka, Indiana.

With enthusiasm fuelled by his opinion of his rapid success in the trailer retail business, (he sold a total of 138 units the first year), in late 1934, he contracted to be the national distributor for the growing Sportsman brand trailers. That growing manufacturing operation moved from its original shed in Mishawaka to a small 3 or 4-car garage sized facility in Elkhart. By this time the burgeoning Schult retail sales business had moved from the street front location to a large lot on the city’s near eastside. His business quickly became national in scope and he advertised monthly in both Billboard and Variety magazines to attract vaudeville and carnival workers as customers. In January of 1936, Sportsman trailers moved again into one of the largest buildings in Elkhart to have space to keep up with production orders. In March of 1936, Milo Miller sold his manufacturing concern to his national distributor Wilbur Schult and the Schult Trailer Company was added to the Schult Trailer Mart.

Wilbur Schult immediately took off to make his mark on the new industry. He began a strategy of explosive growth and acquisition unequalled in industry history. He discontinued his retail agreement with Covered Wagon, at that time the largest company in the industry, and began rapidly recruiting dealers of his own. By April of 1937, Schult had 2 plants in Elkhart with over 250,000 combined square feet of manufacturing space and had created a division in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He had acquired the Pathfinder Trailer facility in Elkhart and was already recognized as having the largest production capacity of any company in the industry. He produced over 1500 trailers in 1937. He continued his dramatic growth acquiring the Royal Wilhelm Company, manufacturers of Royal Coach in Sturgis, Michigan, and opened a division in Christchurch, New Zealand making him perhaps the first manufacturer producing units in three countries and on two continents. He also had developed a licensed distributor agency in Sweden.

Beginning in 1938, Schult’s father William, now the corporate secretary-treasurer of his son’s company (which he had thought was sheer folly only 18 months before) was also a designated roving ambassador visiting all TCT and ATA events and rallies as well as other major festivals to represent the company.

By the start of 1939, Schult Trailers, Inc. was recognized as having supplanted Covered Wagon as the largest company in the industry. Wilbur Schult quickly became very active in the infant Trailer Coach Manufacturers Association (the early predecessor to RVIA) and was elected its national chairman in 1940. A firm believer in promotional events, he became the National Trailer Show Director and held that position for 14 years.

While making such dramatic inroads into the industry’s production capacity, Schult also produced many industry innovations. He was the first manufacturer to extend his units standard width from 7 1/2 to a full 8 feet and the first to offer 7’ foot ceilings. He was the first manufacturer to build a full steel frame under his entry level products. He designed and installed an optional full trailer "air conditioning system" which circulated air over a vault of ice to cool the trailer. In 1938, he built a luxurious custom 40 foot fifth-wheel rig including the customized towing vehicle for New England publisher Myron Zobel. The "Continental Clipper" included a stainless steel kitchen, a radio-telephone, and a flying bridge where the Zobels could ride behind the chauffeur driven tow vehicle. This unit became so well recognized that Mr. Zobel was able to sell it after 7 or 8 years of use to King Farouk of Egypt.

Schult was the first RV manufacturer to demonstrate that you could build a company into industry prominence by acquisition of competing companies as well as direct growth; a model that continues to be followed, 70 years later, by the industry leaders today.

Schult’s business continued its dramatic growth through the years of WWII by totally converting his operation to defense production needs. He built specialty trailers for transporting the huge paratrooper gliders from point to point, he converted Ford sedans into wooden bodied military ambulances, and he built busses to transport personnel including POW transport vehicles and special "dead transport" busses designed to respectfully carry the bodies of soldiers killed in battle to the rear lines. His Elkhart operation alone kept over 600 people employed in three shifts, around the clock, during the war.

In the 1950s, the Schult Trailer Company evolved into the Schult Mobile Home Company and turned its attention completely to the manufactured housing side of the now separating industries. Schult sold his interest in the company in 1957 and continued to serve the industry through association work and other ventures. The company continues today as Schult Homes the oldest company in the housing industry.

For his many contributions to the growth and development of the entire industry, Wilbur Schult was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame as a member of its original class in 1972.



For more information please read:

Ed Strauss & Karen Strauss - The Bus World Encyclopedia of Buses

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Donald F. Wood - American Buses

Denis Miller - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trucks and Buses

Susan Meikle Mandell - A Historical Survey of Transit Buses in the United States

David Jacobs - American Buses, Greyhound, Trailways and Urban Transportation

William A. Luke & Linda L. Metler - Highway Buses of the 20th Century: A Photo Gallery 

William A. Luke & Brian Grams - Buses of Motorcoach Industries 1932-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Greyhound Buses 1914-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Prevost Buses 1924-2002 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Flxible Intercity Buses 1924-1970 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Buses of ACF Photo Archive (including ACF-Brill & CCF-Brill)

William A. Luke - Trailways Buses 1936-2001 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Fageol & Twin Coach Buses 1922-1956 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Yellow Coach Buses 1923 Through 1943: Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Trolley Buses: 1913 Through 2001 Photo Archive

Harvey Eckart - Mack Buses: 1900 Through 1960 Photo Archive

Brian Grams & Andrew Gold - GM Intercity Coaches 1944-1980 Photo Archive

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

John McKane - Flxible Transit Buses: 1953 Through 1995 Photo Archive

Bill Vossler - Cars, Trucks and Buses Made by Tractor Companies

Lyndon W Rowe - Municipal buses of the 1960s

Edward S. Kaminsky - American Car & Foundry Company 1899-1999

Dylan Frautschi - Greyhound in Postcards: Buses, Depots and Post Houses

Tad Burness - American Truck Spotter's Guide, 1920-1970

Tad Burness - American Truck & Bus Spotter's Guide, 1920-1985

Robert M Roll - American trucking: A seventy-five year odyssey

David Jacobs - American Trucks: A photographic essay of American Trucks and Trucking

David Jacobs - American Trucks: More Colour Photographs of Truck & Trucking

John Gunnell - American Work Trucks: A Pictorial History of Commercial Trucks 1900-1994

George W. Green - Special-Use Vehicles: An Illustrated History of Unconventional Cars and Trucks

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Ronald G. Adams - 100 Years of Semi Trucks

Stan Holtzman - Big Rigs: The Complete History of the American Semi Truck

Stan Holtzman & Jeremy Harris Lipschultz - Classic American Semi Trucks

Stan Holtzman - Semi Truck Color History

Donald F. Wood - American Beer Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Beverage Trucks: Photo Archive

Donald F. Wood - Commercial Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Delivery Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Dump Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Gas & Oil Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Logging Trucks 1915 Through 1970: Photo Archive

Donald F. Wood - New Car Carriers 1910-1998 Photo Album

Donald F. Wood - RVs & Campers 1900-2000: An Illustrated History

Donald F. Wood - Wreckers and Tow Trucks

Gini Rice - Relics of the Road

Gini Rice - Relics of the Road - Impressive International Trucks 1907-1947

Gini Rice - Relics of the Road - Keen Kenworth Trucks - 1915-1955

Richard J. Copello - American Car Haulers

Niels Jansen - Pictorial History of American Trucks

John B. Montville - Refuse Trucks: Photo Archive

Bill Rhodes - Circus and Carnival Trucks 1941-2000: Photo Archive

Howard L. Applegate - Coca-Cola: Its Vehicles in Photographs 1930 Through 1969: Photo Archive

James T. Lenzke & Karen E. O'Brien - Standard Catalog of American Light-Duty Trucks: 1896-2000

James K. Wagner - Ford Trucks since 1905

Don Bunn - Dodge Trucks

Fred Crismon - International Trucks

Don Bunn - Encyclopedia of Chevrolet Trucks


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